Children are more likely to develop asthma if their father was exposed to tobacco smoke when he was growing up, a New study have been found.
And they are more likely to develop common lung diseases if their father is himself a smoker, according to the international team of researchers.
The findings, published in the European Respiratory Journal, provide further evidence of the potential for a “transgenerational effect” where smoking can harm the health of people born two generations later.
“We found that the risk of developing non-allergic asthma in children increased by 59% if their parents were exposed to secondhand smoke in childhood, compared to children whose parents were not exposed.
“The risk was higher, at 72%, if the parents were exposed to secondhand smoke and continued to smoke themselves,” said Jiacheng Liu, of the University of Melbourne, one of the co-authors.
The study was conducted by a team of Australian, British and Sri Lankan researchers.
Dr Dinh Boye, another co-author, said: “Our results show how the harm caused by smoking can have an impact not only on smokers but also on their children and grandchildren.”
Given their conclusions, Bowie added, men should try to avoid smoking if possible, to reduce the risks of affecting the health of their children or offspring.
John Foster, Director of Health Policy at asthma + Lung UK, said: “This research is truly shocking, and shows that the negative effects of smoking can last for generations. The fact that children born today are at a 59% risk of developing asthma if their father was exposed to secondhand smoke as a child shows the huge impact of smoking on health of others.
The findings are based on the researchers’ analysis of detailed data on the health of 1,689 pairs of parents and their offspring collected as part of the long-running Tasmanian Longitudinal Book. health Study in Australia.
The research paper says: “Our findings suggest that when boys are passively exposed to tobacco smoke from their parents before the age of 15, their offspring have an increased risk of developing non-allergic childhood asthma, but not allergic asthma.
“Paternal exposure to smoke before age 15 is a major risk factor for non-allergic asthma.”
Professor Jonathan Greig, chair of the European Respiratory Society’s Tobacco Control Committee, who was not involved in the study, said it added to the evidence for the intergenerational risks of smoking.
He said children need to be protected from further harm by ministers who are taking other drastic measures to reduce smoking. He called for smoking cessation services to be increased and adults to be routinely asked at any NHS appointment if they smoke, and offered help to quit if they did.
The epigenetic changes caused by smoking — modifications to genes in which a person’s DNA sequence does not change — were the most likely cause of the dramatically increased risk of asthma in children whose parents inhaled secondhand smoke in their youth, Bowie said.
Epigenetic changes can be caused by environmental exposure such as smoking, and may be inherited for future generations. Specifically, when a boy is exposed to tobacco smoke, it may cause genetic changes to occur in the germ cells. These are the cells that go [on] to produce sperm.
Later, his children will inherit these changes, which in turn can harm their health, including an increased risk of asthma. In boys, germ cells continue to grow until puberty, which is a vulnerable period when exposure to tobacco smoke can affect the cells and cause genetic changes.